Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Listening to: Wild As Angels (The Levellers)
Weather: gloomy end to a fine day

After leaving my old job and before moving to Orkney I attended a bricklaying course at the local tech college.

Great fun it was too and, though I say so myself, I got pretty good at laying the nice little clay bricks with the perfectly-mixed mortar provided by the college, made up of four parts builder's sand and one part cement. I had a go at cinder blocks and managed fine with those as well.

I've finally got around to doing some building and the whole thing is a very different kettle of fish. Everything here is built with exceptionally heavy concrete blocks - an experience long on good, healthy exercise, but short on finesse and neatness.

I'm building Molly's maternity pen and it's slow-going. I've done my best with trowel and spirit level, but more than once I've actually had to resort to kicking a block into place.

On top of that, the sand here is straight from the beach and full of salt, so reacts differently to builder's sand. If you mix it and leave it for a few minutes, it starts to separate, the salt pushing the water out so you spend most of the time cutting the mix with the trowel.

So, I'm here with biceps twanging and hands rapidly shrivelling, in desperate need of a massage and a long hot bath, but Sal's in Kirkwall and I forgot to put the water on - and it's just started raining.


Dave said...

Could you not put the sand in a bath to soak first, or give it a shower, to wash some of the salt out? I have a gut feeling that it won't be doing the long-term strength of the mortar any good.

Virgin Porker said...

Hey Malc! Just been catching up on your antics while I've been away. Awwww, Molly & Kim look lovely!

Hope your weather there's holding out for you, what with all your building work going on - it's crapola here today....

Lorra love.

VP x

Donn said...

A Task For A Masochisto
by Malc's Pig-Pen Project
(Alan Parsons/The Cask of Amontillado)

By the last breath the Orkney winds blow
I'll build a pen for Molly oh no
Smile on her face
I'll say "Come let us grow
I've a pen for you to farrow"

Sheltered inside from the cold of the snow
These #%$@&* blocks are heavy ya know?
Breaking my back as she laughs at the brine
Which is curing incredibly slow

What are these blocks breaking my arms
Part of me dies each brick I lay
Say it's a game and I'll come to no harm
You'll feel your back slipping away

You who buy pork and whose troubles are few
May come around to see my point of view
What price the chops of a Queen on her throne
When you're building a pen all alone

I, still, ♥ the views said...

I hope you've got steel toe-caps in your boots. . .

Malc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Malc said...


Good point, although the sand has been out in the rain for four weeks and I'm using the locally recommended 3/1 mix as opposed to the 4/1 in England.


Welcome back, hope you had fun on the piste. Weather is awful here - gales, rain and hail.


I suspect that has more to do with the Amontillado, but good stuff nonetheless.


Yes indeedy. Dickies' finest rigger boots. Not only strong and sturdy, but the most comfortable footwear I've ever owned.

mig bardsley said...

I once laid a brick. And it was raining.

Then I was allowed to retire to the less demanding task of heaping bricks in the wheel barrow for others to do the craftsman's stuff :)
I like the casual use of proper terms like "cutting the mix".
Gives the right impression :)